Warning over ‘extremely powerful’ drug sold as cocaine on the streets

3 July, 2024

Health officials are warning that a white powder being sold as cocaine in Melbourne contains a potentially deadly opioid that is more than 100 times more powerful than heroin.

The Victorian Department of Health has issued a warning about cocaine contaminated with protonitazine, an extremely potent new synthetic opioid that can increase the risk of a life-threatening overdose.

According to the department’s statement, “the product appears to cause potent adverse effects, including loss of consciousness, respiratory depression and life-threatening hypoxia (insufficient oxygen for normal function).”

“Cocaine and protonitazine are very different substances. Cocaine has a stimulating effect, while protonitazine has a sedating effect and can lead to opioid overdose”.

“Using protonitazine with depressants such as alcohol, GHB or sedatives (such as Xanax or Valium) increases the risk of overdose.

Signs of opioid overdose include slow breathing and decreased consciousness, with constricted pupils in some cases.

“Naloxone is an easy-to-use medication that can reverse an opioid overdose – it’s safe to use even if you’re not sure if someone has taken opioids,” the health department said.

“Naloxone is available free of charge at participating pharmacies, needle and syringe programmes and the Medically Supervised Injection Centre.”

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